Thicket Work: A Prose Poem

A few years ago, only months after we moved to this century-old farmhouse, barn, and four-and-a-half acres of gardens and woods, the northeast corner shape-shifted into a whirlpool. Or maybe something bewitched me, sucking me into an uncharacteristic compulsion. In any case, I set about attacking the non-native species that had made an impenetrable thicket there. Several kinds of vines, particularly grapevine and poison ivy in collusion with invasive rose and honeysuckle, climbed up saplings, suffocating them from sunlight, strangling, wrapping around and sinking into the tender bark. What I could of this horde, I uprooted by hand and fed into the mulching machine.
Doing this, I was not totally of one mind. On one level I carried the consciousness that “weed” is arbitrary and that “impenetrable” elevates my status above that of smaller creatures calling it a “refuge” from my rifle-blasting neighbors. While they can be called “invasive,” I sensed that honeysuckle and rose still bloom, still offer fragrance. Even when gritting my teeth to tear out their roots, I had to admit that coffee isn’t a native either, nor chocolate, these my passionate main food groups. Toss in venomous thoughts that poison ivy, like many “undesirables,” was reputed to possess medicinal value in certain hands.
Yet I persisted with a particular vision, fresh from regular walks in that part of our woods where the massive oaks and maples elevated my spirits. While I’d not live to see this transitional wood reach that height, something felt right about fighting for its chance to grow there someday.
Why? Perhaps discerning what matters and dedicating sweat-drenched labor to that long-view responsibility of elders builds muscle in the soul. The discipline of hard labor aligned with an experienced vision of beauty transcends a motivation that feeds off hostility. I didn’t have to hate the invaders; instead focus on a future of majestic trees rising over leaf-littered walkways. Hold firm to serving good with a humility that guards against hard presumption.
Many hours of hard work, both physical and with fine-tuning consciousness, steeled in me a capacity to stop using the sarcastic tone and imperious words that had previously characterized my language, when I’d fall in the presumption of righteousness. Yes, power with discourse should be summoned when we see what seems out of place, what looks harmful to the vulnerable, to the “other.” But it’s a delicate act, a balanced consciousness. Act for justice but keep love and peace foremost in mind and heart. Perhaps the thicket work was there to teach me something of that. Perhaps such labor distills an essence that some call “good work.”

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One comment on “Thicket Work: A Prose Poem

  1. Luke Hokama says:

    So well said, thank you!

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